When young people ask me for career advice, I always tell them, “Don’t just focus on your achievements. Be a collaborator.”
During a decade teaching and research At Harvard’s business and law schools, I found an important one is often overlooked: People who knew how to collaborate in groups achieved a high level of competitiveness compared to those who did not.
When it comes to hiring, intelligent collaborators are highly desirable candidates. They deliver higher quality results, get promoted faster, get noticed more by senior management, and have happier customers.
But here’s what surprised me the most: Collaboration skills are surprisingly rare, especially among men.
in 2021 McKinsey study found that female leaders, compared to male peers, were twice as likely to spend significant time on collaborative efforts outside of their formal jobs.
Being a collaborator is not easy. But the main goal is simple: to bring people together to solve problems and learn something new.
Here’s how to improve:
1. Be an inclusive leader.
Whether you are the project leader or not, take steps to bring various people together.
My mindset has always been, “That person thinks differently than I do. They know something different that I don’t, and I can learn a lot from them.”
These people should not have different fields of knowledge. They must also represent different backgrounds, ages and life experiences.
2. Show appreciation and recognition.
A pioneering study By a professor at Harvard Business School Boris Groysberg found that workers, especially men, often take their professional networks for granted.
During job interviews, they did not realize how much support they received from their colleagues, and believed that they were more independent and “carryable” than they actually were.
This “me first” mentality is often a hiring deal breaker and turn off for hiring managers. Even Claire Hughes Johnson, a former VP at Google for 10 years, says she looks for self-awareness and collaborative skills “before anything else.”
3. Ask for help.
If you’re responsible for submitting a weekly sales report, but you’re only doing it on your own, this may suggest that your feedback is most valuable.
But if you reach out to experts from different departments for insights, your data points will likely be more credible.
Don’t forget to mention the names of the contributors, as well as their experience. This will give your report more credibility.
Give people a way to learn without having to be in every group. My research has found that the desire to learn is a frequent driver of voluntary engagement.
Communities created through Slack and similar messaging tools are a great way to foster virtual forms of collaboration, knowledge sharing, and knowledge distribution.
5. Share data streams.
Scoreboards and dashboards are powerful tools for several reasons:
- They allow you to measure your progress against the goals you have set.
- When shared publicly, they create peer pressure because they allow leaders to compare their results with those produced by their peers.
- They make critical information available, thus making the inclusion process more transparent.
Consider what data should be shared, and when and how. The point is not to hide data, but to make it accessible and useful to specific audiences. A good rule of thumb: Avoid oversharing.
Heidi K. GardnerPhD, is a Distinguished Fellow at Harvard Law School Center on the Legal Profession and program president Sector Leadership Master Class. Previously, he was a professor at Harvard Business School. He is also the author of the best-selling book “Smarter collaboration”. Heidi obtained a master’s degree from the London School of Economics, and a second PhD from the London Business School. Follow him Twitter.